OWINGS MILLS, Md. -- All of the pieces have fallen into place for the Baltimore Ravens to end their three-year playoff drought.
Baltimore simply needs to beat the Cleveland Browns in Week 17 to win the AFC North for the first time since 2012 and secure a spot in the postseason.
“It’s not the top goal, but it’s definitely the first goal – we set it every year – is to win the division, to be division champions, and we’re playing a championship game on Sunday,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said at his Monday press conference. “That’s what you work for. That’s what we put all that time in for, and in order to do that, we’ve had to weather some storms and overcome some challenges and win some games, and guys have done a great job.
“We appreciate where we’re at. This is the opportunity that we wanted, and now it’s ours to go get.”
The Ravens (9-6) paved their way with an impressive 22-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. The Pittsburgh Steelers then lost to the New Orleans Saints and dropped out of the playoff picture.
Cleveland secured a 12-9 overtime victory over Baltimore in Week 5. As a result, coach John Harbaugh is solely focused on containing Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield as opposed to the various scenarios playoff scenarios.
"He’s going to try to make plays,” Harbaugh said about Mayfield . “He’s certainly not afraid to push the ball in there. They’re almost like a touchdown, check-down type of team. They take shots all the time."
The Ravens have won five of their last six games with rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the offense. The former Heisman Trophy winner has revitalized the team’s running attack, which is second behind Seattle with 147 yards per game.
Jackson also has gotten better throwing the ball -- he completed a 68-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass to fellow rookie Mark Andrews against the Chargers. The playoff implications over the past six games have not been the least bit daunting for the first-round pick.
“I’m used to playing on big stages, people doubt us and stuff like that and it’s my job to go prove them wrong in football,” Jackson said.
The Ravens also have the league’s No. 1 defense and will pose a serious challenge for any opponent in the postseason. The key for the Ravens is to secure that berth.
"Anyone has a chance,” Ravens safety Eric Weddle said: “If we get in the tournament, we have as a good a shot as anybody. I know for a fact no wants to see us. I know that."